Zack Wheeler Impresses In First Spring Start

Ed Delany, MMO

If you want to make a strong impression, this is how you do it.

Zack Wheeler is battling for a rotation spot for the Mets this season, and came out of the gates guns blazing in his first Spring start of the year Friday.

“He was out there getting after it. He knows he’s got great stuff. He knows he hasn’t been healthy and he knows he has to earn a position,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He went out there today and that was very good.”

The 27-year-old missed the entirety of the 2015 and 2016 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but returned in 2017 to pitch in 17 games. He recorded a 5.21 ERA, 5.03 FIP and 81 ERA+ in 86.1 innings.

In his start Friday, Wheeler was touching 97 mph with his fastball and recorded two strikeouts in his one inning of work. He needed 15 pitches to get through the frame.

“I just go out there and just pitch like I know how. When I am healthy I know what I can do. I know what I am capable of,” Wheeler said. “I just keep my head down, just go out there and pitch whenever they need me to, get my pitch count up, throw good quality strikes, get ahead of hitters and work off of that.”

The Mets signed left-hander Jason Vargas earlier this month for a rotation spot, so players like Wheeler will have to fight to earn their spot as a starter and make a good impression.

“We’re looking at them to go in and pound the zone, get ahead, control the running game, do all those things that are going to separate them from one another,” Callaway said of the pitchers vying for positions. “They all have very, very good stuff. If they can separate themselves in some type of way, that’s going to matter.”

It’s easy for a player to get inside their heads and worry about the external situations around them. However, Wheeler was able to stay calm after having a discussion recently with skipper Mickey Callaway.

“Mickey came up to me the other day and said, ‘Don’t worry about all that kind of stuff,’ ” Wheeler said. “Just keep your head down, go about your business and go out there and try to to win a job and that is my goal and it starts with what they want, and that’s getting ahead of hitters and throwing strikes and staying healthy.”

About Rob Piersall 1231 Articles
Rob Piersall is a fourth-year student at SUNY New Paltz, studying journalism with a minor in communications. He is also the managing editor for his school's newspaper, The Oracle. A Mets fan since the age of six in 2001, Rob is senior editor here at MMO. His favorite thing is reporting breaking Mets news and transactions as well as writing columns. He is also ready to see what Mickey Callaway brings to the table in 2018. LGM! Follow Rob on Twitter: @RobPiersall.